Changing American Congregations: Findings from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study
© 2014 The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. The third wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS-III) was conducted in 2012. The 2012 General Social Survey asked respondents who attend religious services to name their religious congregation, producing a nationally representative cross-section of congregations from across the religious spectrum. Data about these congregations were collected via a 50-minute interview with one key informant from 1,331 congregations. Information was gathered about multiple aspects of congregations' social composition, structure, activities, and programming. Approximately two-thirds of the NCS-III questionnaire replicates items from 1998 or 2006-2007 NCS waves. Each congregation was geocoded, and selected data from the 2010 U.S. Census or American Community Survey have been appended. We describe NCS-III methodology and use the cumulative NCS dataset (containing 4,071 cases) to describe five trends: more ethnic diversity, greater acceptance of gays and lesbians, increasingly informal worship styles, declining size (but not from the perspective of the average attendee), and declining denominational affiliation.
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